The thing I love about the performing arts is the generosity of it all. The rehearsals, the talents, the risks, the giving-ness of a performance, all so that I may enjoy, be amazed, be moved, be transported. There is a reciprocity to a performance, a giving and a receiving that flow back and forth across the footlights in magical mutuality between performer and audience.

The other night I went to see Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, offered by OutCast Productions, a sweet small theatre venue housed on our county fairgrounds. Four musicians and three actor/vocalists brought to life nearly 30 pieces of Brel’s heart-felt music.

pink manhole coverWhen they sang “The Desperate Ones,” near the end of the first act, my heart ached for the marginalized people I’ve known who are so dragged down by their life on the edge of our culture that they sometimes wish to be cut off from life altogether.

They watch their dreams go down

Behind the setting sun

They walk without a sound

The desperate ones

The song speaks of the uncaring others, the ones who “know the verb to love, but never know how,” the ones who pass by the people of the margins.

 

But in my experience, we needn’t summon up “love” in order to honor the value of another’s life. We need only turn toward and truly see, be present with, and maybe even listen to – those are the required actions. Those are the gifts to offer to a person in the margins.

If love arises out of those gifts, it’s wonderful. If love doesn’t emerge, that’s fine too.

But in the meantime take the opportunity to notice how such gifts are offered back in kind: how you are truly seen, how a moment of presence is shared, how a recognition of mutual humanity – even for just a few seconds – can brighten the days of two strangers.

Perhaps this simple, ordinary exchange is the ultimate generous art.